Urban Initiatives has yet again expanded our horizons and broken through into a new arena of exciting outreach and impact. The Mentor Coach program has officially begun! What is the Mentor Coach program, you ask? Urban Initiatives’ success as a program has resulted in many of our soccer players consistently returning to the team even after they have graduated out of the Work to Play program, which goes up to the 4th grade. The commitment and discipline of these 5th to 8th graders sets them apart as a group and illustrates their phenomenal leadership potential. Urban Initiatives could not ignore the need to continue engaging these student athletes and presenting them the opportunities they deserve to grow in their leadership skills and positive character traits.
On October 20th, the Mentor Coach program kicked off with its very first Mentor Coach Fall Retreat! This unprecedented event brought together Mentor Coaches from all 22 schools across the city for a packed day that consisted of a parent/child values discussion, fun leadership and teambuilding activities, and, of course, a soccer game! At the end of this rigorous and eventful day, the Mentor Coaches still wanted more! We were impressed and thrilled when they said they wished the retreat had been even longer! That’s the commitment we’re talking about!
The parent/child discussion over breakfast was an essential component to the day and a great way to get started. The parents of the Mentor Coaches were able to see what the program is all about, ensuring and affirming that they can fully support our Mentor Coaches as they pursue the implementation of the positive values at home as well as at school and on the field! Without a doubt, the leadership and teambuilding activities were the favorite of the day. To the outside eye, these activities may have simply seemed like games meant solely for entertainment and enjoyment; however, they were so much more than that. Each station, whether the Giant Jenga, Team Skis, Spider Web, Balance Challenge, or Role Playing, was a vehicle that communicated a powerful positive value that we are challenging and encouraging our Mentor Coaches to fully embody on and off the field. We did much more than just talk about honesty, integrity, equality, responsibility, caring, and restraint; these values were woven into every activity in order to provide an opportunity for experiential learning that has a lasting and profound impact.
What matters most is that 100% of the Mentor Coaches at the event reported that the retreat had helped them become a better leader! With such a promising group of young individuals, we know that this leadership development will inevitably continue throughout the year, and we will hear more testimonials like this one from Adriel: “I love to be in Urban Initiatives. Why? Because it is fun and healthy to do the things you love to do. I learn lots of things in the soccer team and it helps me think twice about the bad choices I used to make. I’m proud to be a mentor.”
Urban Initiatives would like to especially thank Greene Elementary School and Principal Heidkamp for hosting the Mentor Coach group! Also, we offer many thanks to volunteers Bob Luchsinger, Brooke Alexander, Jeff Goodman, and Pradeep Ganesan who came out to support our very first Mentor Coach Retreat. We look forward to many more events like this one as the Mentor Coach program expands its impact and engages the future leaders of our great Chicago neighborhoods!